Marathon Man

Well!

Despite my interrupted training and despite my ankle tendon issues, I woke up today a marathoner after having completed the Loch Ness Marathon. Sure I wasn’t the fastest (that honour goes to Elly Tarus who completed it in 2 hours, 27 mins and 21 secs!!), I don’t even think I was anything close to the fastest I am capable of, but I finished in 5:49:37 which I’m pretty pleased with, especially given the issues I had in the build up to the race.

It’s difficult to describe the experience but I’ll give it a go.

IMG-20130929-00604

I’m not a fan of waiting about. The need for plenty of time to get everyone organised is fairly obvious, but when you’re idling full of nervous energy you just want to get stuck in!

The day started pretty early, I had to get to the pick up point for the buses that ship everybody out to the starting line at around 7:00 AM, a full three hours before the start of the race. That wasn’t really an issue for me – I am well used to early starts – but it did mean there was a lot of time to hang around, waiting for the race to start and I am not a fan of inertia. Too much time to think can be a killer, so I tried to spend it focusing on my last minute preparations and of course, admiring the spectacular scenery.

I must admit, the sight of nearly four thousand runners assembled at the starting line was impressive indeed. I opted for a position near the back, all too aware of the fact that I wasn’t going to be running fast and wanting to avoid the psychological impact of seeing hundreds of runners powering off ahead of me and, perhaps worse, passing me in the opening moments. Not that I felt in competition with the other runners, I most certainly didn’t, but the human brain is the human brain and to see hundreds of people leaving you in their dust is a negative feeling you just don’t want or need when you have twenty six point two miles to traverse!

IMG_2010

A view over the Loch from Foyers. It’s up a big hill dontchya know…

I actually found the first half quite comfortable. I kept a nice steady pace (somewhere around the eleven to twelve minute mile mark) that stayed pretty consistent for the first fourteen miles or so. As someone who always trains on his own I was sort of surprised by how sociable an experience it was. At various points I would fall into pace with a group of runners and get a chat – the usual sort of stuff, where people were from, what their running experiences were, and so on – and the pervasive atmosphere of friendly encouragement was extremely useful in those early miles.

IMG_2056

As this photo looks out onto the Loch, the marathon route snakes along the left hand shore.

It was round about mile fourteen or fifteen that I found myself faltering a bit, pace wise. I was having to walk for spells, not because I was tired (I actually had no issues cardio-wise over the whole race and never felt out of breath once) but because my not-quite-conditioned-enough leg muscles were starting to feel the strain. For a while I found myself running/walking alongside a bloke called Steve from Aberdeen who was also struggling a bit and we urged each other on, running a mile then walking one, making deals with each other (and ourselves) to push on to the next mile marker, or to walk up a hill on the condition we ran down the other side and so on. The important thing to me was not to stop. No matter how sore my legs were, I knew that if I stopped them pumping it would be nigh on impossible to get them started again.

Steve and I parted ways when he had to stop (he would later pass me once he’d dug deep and found a second wind) and I pushed myself down the road. My next comrade in agony was Liam, from Bristol, who was really struggling with calf pain as he walked on down the road. He’d already had one friend drop out at the halfway point with knee problems and was really starting to feel the strain. With my thighs burning through overwork, I found it reassuring that I wasn’t alone in my pain. We spent a couple of miles pushing each other along and resolutely failing to get back to a running pace but I didn’t mind, my greater concern being to keep on going, no matter what the speed. We caught up with his other running mate who was also having a bad time of it and then I left them behind when they decided to stop and stretch their muscles out a bit before carrying on. (They would eventually finish about twenty minutes after I did).

IMG_1633

The Ness Islands are a welcome sight as you reach the outskirts of the city of Inverness and the final few miles of your run…

I essentially power walked the last six or seven miles, and as each mile marker appeared and I passed the familiar landmarks of the city centre I was resolving myself to run across the line, no matter how much it hurt. As the last mile loomed there were more and more people lining the route, cheering, clapping and offering encouragement (I must admit, I was impressed they had stuck it out ┬áso long) and it was amazing how much of a boost to my determination and resolve that was. As I crossed the main bridge over the River Ness I desperately wanted to run but my legs weren’t cooperating, but as I carried on down the riverside somehow I managed to get my legs to move until I was jogging towards the finish line where my family and friends were waiting to cheer me across the line. I sprinted the last thirty yards or so, determined to cross the line with a bit of pride and dignity.

And that was that. Twenty six point two miles, my first marathon, in the bag after not enough preparation and almost six hours of toil. I got my medal and my free t-shirt and strode triumphantly into the event village and it was only then that I noticed just how much pain I was in! I can’t remember, in all my years of martial arts and fitness training, ever feeling this sore. Beyond the intensity it’s a familiar sort of pain, the stiffness and burning of muscles pushed to their limits but even with the massage I got immediately after the run and the ice bath I had last night I’m struggling to get my legs to cooperate with me today. It has improved since yesterday – there was so much tightness in my left leg I felt like my kneecap was going to wrenched loose – and I know it will subside over the next couple of days so it’s fine. I think there’s even a perverse side of me that’s enjoying it, the pain being easier to handle with the knowledge that every stabbing, burning moment of it was earned the hard way.

Will I do another marathon? I think so, I’d like to have another go at one after completing a full training programme and see if I can improve on my time. It’s certainly an experience I would recommend. However matter of fact I may have felt before and during the event as to the accomplishment, it couldn’t suppress my roar of accomplishment as I crossed that line. It’s a funny feeling. A great feeling. But hard to put into words.

Look Ma, a medal!

Look Ma, a medal!

Anyway, I have the rest of this week off work so I reckon it’s time to get down to some serious rest and recuperation.

P.S. Most of the photos in the post weren’t actually taken on the day but are of things you pass on the way. I didn’t even want to stop to take a photo of anything, such was my single mindedness to get to the end! Maybe next time…

Posted in marathon | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Run Andygeddon, Run

Ok so it’s been a couple of months since I posted anything on here, which is mostly due to being out of action on the running front for a while. Last time I mentioned the fact I was having issues with my ankle that had forced me to a doctor to get it checked out. His diagnosis was tendonitis. Not the end of the world, but for a while there it looked like it might have been the end of my marathon bid. Might have been.

About a month ago, with little progress having been made in the whole ankle debacle, I had a brainwave and visited the Puffin Hydrotherapy Pool in Dingwall. After a quick consultation with one of the physios in residence I found myself with a programme of exercises to hasten the healing of the troublesome tendon. And by jove, it only worked!

Of course it did blow a massive hole in my training regime. I was still cross training in the intervening time but I haven’t done a lot of running. In the last couple of weeks I’ve done a bit, nothing too major but enough to test the tendon and give me the confidence to put it back to work.

So the marathon is back on the cards. Tomorrow. I’m not saying I’ll be quick, or that it won’t aggravate the injury or that its even sensible, but having prepared myself mentally for it, it’s something that I really have to do.

It kicks off at ten a.m. tomorrow, so less than twenty four hours from now, if all goes well, I’ll have run my first marathon.

Wish me luck….

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Houston, We Have A Problem

An ankle problem to be exact. I haven’t updated these pages much in the last two weeks. Well, that’s because I haven’t done much in the last two weeks. Or any training of any kind to be exact. That niggling pain that surfaced after my last long run has failed to go away, if anything it’s getting worse.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Monday (quite a big deal for me – I haven’t been to see a doctor in twelve years, barring one trip to A&E with a ripped muscle which doesn’t count!) to try and get to the bottom of it, but in the meantime I’m completely off training of any kind. I suspect it isn’t getting better because I’ve had to go to work and my day job in retail is not the sort of job you can do sitting down. It involves a lot of running up and down stairs too, which I don’t think is helpful. Circumstances have meant though that there is no question at the moment of me taking any time off to rest this bastard ankle!

BASTARD!

BASTARD!

To top it off, I seem to be experiencing unpleasant side effects from the constant flow of ibuprofen that I’ve been munching down (within the manufacturer’s directions of course) to try and combat it so I’m going to have to stop taking them too, at least for the moment.

Right now it’s just a frustrating mess and is casting a shadow over the whole premise of running this marathon. If I can get fit again within the next week or two I think I’ll be ok, it’ll be tricky to make up the ground but I believe it’s achievable. But if it takes much longer to get back to full fitness I think I could have a serious problem and that would be heartbreaking.

Hopefully, I don't get this doctor....

Hopefully, I don’t get this doctor….

Anyway, fingers crossed it’ll work out alright soon. Maybe if I’m lucky it’ll clear up before I need to hit the doc’s, but I’ve got this horrible feeling I might have done some real damage. Here’s hoping not.

Posted in marathon | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Pain No Gain

Forgive me followers for I have sinned, it’s been over a week since my last running based confession. And it’s been a busy one.

Before I get on to the subject of today’s run (a pretty much uneventful three miles to be honest) a quick recap of the last eleven days is in order. In my last post I talked about looking forward to a proper rest day in order to prepare me for a six mile run on the Saturday, which at the time would be the furthest I had ever run.

Well. It didn’t quite go as planned. What happened instead was a night out with people from work as a leaving do for a colleague who was moving on to pastures new, a night out that involved moderate to large quantities of beer and cider. This meant that I spent the next day completely exhausted and with no prospect of a rest before having to get my run in as I had to attend a birthday barbecue for my Wing Tsjun instructor immediately after work. The plan being to show face at the cook out and then run home as her house is roughly five miles away from mine and therefore wouldn’t need much of a detour thrown in to make up the mileage.

Down by the river...

Down by the river…

As it turned out, after a bit of food and some (non-alcoholic) beverages I was in better shape than I was when I got there and so got stuck into the six miles. I added a lap round the local park to make up the miles and this time got to spend the first part of the run along the riverside, in my old neighbourhood, which helped motivate me to get moving. The impromptu high five and (I suspect slightly drunken) shout of encouragement from a passer by was helpful too! In the end I clocked in at just under an hour, sweating buckets but not feeling too bad for the effort.

Still down by the river....

Still down by the river….

The next day should have been a rest day, unfortunately it coincided with a mini paintball tournament at the site where I’m a member, an event I really didn’t want to miss out on. Cue a full day of bombing about the woods, playing harder than I think I’ve ever played paintball before as everyone was pushing themselves to up their game. I didn’t feel too bad physically for this, after all, all this running and cardio I’ve been doing has done wonders for my stamina but I was pretty knackered by the end of it. At the back of my mind I was starting to think that maybe I should have taken it a bit more easily over the weekend but why listen to your gut when you can choose to ignore it and carry on regardless instead?

I hadn’t planned on doing any fitness classes on the Sunday (I don’t normally) but as our regular instructor was away and some of the other participants had asked me to, I (foolishly) decided to run a class on the Sunday night. Talk about overdoing it. I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t participate, just coach the others through a session, but I find it hard to stand back doing nothing while everyone else is sweating so I joined in what turned out to be a pretty hard session. At this point I still didn’t feel too bad, if anything the exact opposite, tired but pleased with the effort I’d been putting in.

Aaaaand... still down by the river....

Aaaaand… still down by the river….

I skipped my three mile run on Monday, opting to use it as a rest day instead. It’s probably the first sensible decision I’d made since Friday, especially given how dead my legs felt when I woke up, but I had work to contend with after which I also had to help out with a Wing Tsjun class in Munlochy, so there’s an argument it wasn’t that much of a rest! I had four miles scheduled for Tuesday, but I’ll confess that as I left the house I was struggling with myself to commit to the full distance. I spent the first mile and a half arguing with myself about whether I should do the full four or leave it at three miles (I was still feeling the effects of my busy weekend and my legs were adding their grumbling voice to the debate) and it wasn’t until I reached my half way rock that I finally just though “sod it, I’m here now” and plumped for the four miles. In the end I was a fraction shy but I was more pleased that I hadn’t bottled it at three miles than I was bothered about not quite finishing the four.

Wednesday was run free but I spent it marshalling paintball and I had yet another fitness class that once again I opted to participate in rather than just coach which once again didn’t feel too bad at the time. It wasn’t until Thursday, as I struggled through a particularly slow and miserable three miles that it hit me. Like a derailed train.

You have to shout kinda loud to make yourself heard on a paintball field. I blame all those goggles...

You have to shout kinda loud to make yourself heard on a paintball field. I blame all those goggles…

Thursday was a near total write off, thanks to my idiotic over-training. I actually felt like I had the flu, achey, tired, the beginnings of a sore throat (due in no small part to the shouting that goes hand in hand with playing and marshalling paintball games) and an overwhelming urge to sleep. Once again I had failed to follow some of the basic advice given in my book (about being careful not to over-train) and it had come back to bite me big style.

After work on Thursday I crashed out and had an early night, determined to feel better by Saturday when I was scheduled to do seven miles. The way I felt on Thursday made that seem like an impossible dream! Friday, despite having to go to work, was effectively a proper rest day with no additional activities and it made an enormous difference, setting me up for Saturday where I was determined to complete my scheduled seven miler. I managed this reasonably easily, the last couple of miles felt a bit tougher but I clocked in at just under sixty-six minutes which I was pretty pleased with all things considered.

The only downside now is a niggling pain in the outside of me left ankle which started on Saturday, was chased away with an ice pack and some ibuprofen but which has raised its ugly head again after today’s three miles. It’s not bad enough that I’m overly worried about it, but I’m definitely going to have to keep an eye on it as the overall distance this week starts to increase a bit more and I can’t afford to blow an ankle at this stage in the game!

Posted in marathon, training | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feel The Burn

Ooft what a week. Monday’s run felt like an unmitigated disaster (I think to be honest the reality is far less harsh), due in no small part to a GPS failure which led to no data on my performance. The numbers don’t really matter but they are a good way to gauge performance, at least comparatively from run to run and, as it turns out, the absence of data on the run left me with the feeling I’d severely under performed.

This rock is the turnaround point for my three mile runs. Handy little marker to be honest...

This rock is the turnaround point for my three mile runs. Handy little marker to be honest…

Primarily, I use my phone to measure distance but as Monday’s run was only three miles it wasn’t a major problem having no technology to check off the miles. It was my usual route and there is a dirty great rock that, by coincidence (presumably – I’m guessing no Pictish giant predicted I would need a one-and-a-half-milestone in the distant past and so set one up accordingly) lies at precisely a mile and a half away from my front door. Who needs satellites when you have rocks!

satellite

$120 million for a satellite? Pah! I’ve got a rock…

Monday felt like more effort than usual, slightly disappointing given Saturday’s performance on my five miler and I think that slight downer bled through to the following day. My four miles on Tuesday were a bit more of a struggle than the last time – or at least they felt that way – a quick glance at last week’s stats and it turns out it only took me an extra minute or so to complete the distance. This is why I like to have the numbers! Subjective assessments can be completely misleading, often dependent on your state of mind at the time. The numbers never lie!

I use Endomondo Sports Tracker on my phone to keep tabs on my running. Seems to do the job (when my phone's not crashing...)

I use Endomondo Sports Tracker on my phone to keep tabs on my running. Seems to do the job (when my phone’s not crashing…)

Today I had to go into work early so I didn’t have a chance to go for my usual morning run, I had to do it in between work and my Wing Tsjun class. Today’s major obstacle was the heat, oppressive humid heat that held the threat of rain but didn’t have the common decency to let rip and give me a chance to cool down. My calves were a bit tight from last night’s fitness class which caused me issues on the way up the hill, forcing me to a brisk walking pace a couple of times for a few yards just to help them ease off a bit. Again, it felt disastrous but didn’t massively impact on my overall performance. I think maybe I went into this week expecting massive improvements on pace over last week, expectations that were clearly a bit unrealistic. There are still lots of lessons to be learned it seems!

Tomorrow is a rest day (and a day off from work and a day off from my other training so a proper rest day in every sense of the word) and then it’s six miles on Saturday. Or, “The Furthest I’ve Ever Run Ever” as I like to think of it. I’m basically planning more or less a reverse trip of my run from last Saturday with a wee bit of an added detour to add an extra mile on, this time running home. I’m looking forward to it.

Monday’s Stats (minimal and approximate due to technology failure):

Scheduled Distance: 3 miles
Actual Distance: 3 miles (approx.)
Time: aboot half an hour (phone broke)
Average Speed: unknown
RPE: 4

Tuesday’s Stats:

Scheduled Distance: 4 miles
Actual Distance: 4.04 miles
Time: 00:41:19
Average Speed: 10:13 mins/mile
RPE: 4

Today’s Stats:

Scheduled Distance: 3 miles
Actual Distance: 3.03 miles
Time: 00:31:13
Average Speed: 10:18 mins/mile
RPE: 4

Posted in marathon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tick Tick Tock Tock

The passage of time is an interesting thing. Sometimes it drags along at a snail’s pace, sometimes it whizzes by in the blink of an eye. This countdown to the Loch Ness Marathon is definitely feeling closer to the latter! Somewhat unbelievably that’s another week down, closing out with a nice five mile run yesterday.

I took a different route than usual yesterday, running down to my folks’ house which as it happens is almost exactly five miles from my own. Also as a change to my usual routine, I ran after work rather than getting up and doing it in the morning. The reason for this is pretty simple – as the weeks go on the long runs increase up to eighteen miles and in order to get up and run this before I start work I would have to get up disturbingly early in the morning, practically in the middle of the night in fact, and so it makes sense to do them in the early evening, between finishing work and having my dinner.

A different route means a different view! Have a wee swatch at the idyllic looking River Ness.

A different route means a different view! Have a wee swatch at the idyllic looking River Ness.

I was pretty pleased with the run. It didn’t feel too taxing and although I probably set off at slightly too quick a pace I had adjusted this after the first mile or so until I settled into a nice regular rhythm. After that it was a breeze! Tick Tick Tock Tock is the little chant I use to keep the rhythm of my breathing in time with my legs. I try to keep a nice regular breathing pattern of in for two steps then out for two steps, so as I breathe I repeat (either in my head or out loud depending on how I feel) Tick Tick as I inhale (the Ticks being in time with my feet) and Tock Tock as I exhale. It sounds a bit daft but it works for me, and helps me reassert a rhythm when I find myself drifting slightly off it. I suppose “In In Out Out” would work too, but by using Tick and Tock it calls to mind a metronome or pendulum which in turn helps me visualise a consistent, unswerving rhythm.

Also unusual was the fact I was actually running in the presence of people for once. Normally my runs are confined to the early morning woods, devoid of other human beings, but at half five in the evening and travelling through the city centre it was a very different story. Far from being self conscious about it though I actually relished the audience. There’s nothing like people watching to really focus the mind on performing to the best of your ability and the fact that other people could see me run made me want to keep the best form I could muster. At one stage I even passed someone I know and got a “Go yourself Andy boy!” in encouragement, at which I couldn’t help but smile.

Finally I’ve bitten the bullet and started supplementing my recovery with a protein drink. I was pretty sceptical about it, but given how good I feel today, without any pain or discomfort in my legs and a general feeling of being well rested, I don’t think I can really argue with its efficacy. We shall see how it develops but it looks like a post-run protein shake is now a permanent part of my regime.

15 weeks and 1 marathon to go!

Today’s Stats:

Scheduled Distance: 5 miles
Actual Distance: 5.08 miles
Time: 00:48:03
Average Speed: 9:27 mins/mile
RPE: 3

Posted in marathon | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

To be honest, that’s a bit of an understatement. It’s a gorgeous morning this morning. The sun is shining, there’s a cool breeze blowing and I’ve got three out of four of this week’s runs in the bag.

It makes it so much easier to motivate yourself when the weather is so agreeable. It took very little effort to get out and about this morning (it was more difficult getting out of bed, but as it was only a short run this morning I indulged myself and had an extra fifteen minutes of a lie in), despite a slight weariness in my legs from last night’s fitness class.

image

Ok, so having the sun in your face might make it a tad difficult to see where you're going but it sure makes for unusual photos....

Yesterday had seen a break in the run of great weather we’ve been enjoying and I had anticipated a soggy three miles this morning, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first mile or so on the approach to the woods was gloriously sun drenched, the sun on my face until I got under the cover of the trees, but as I reached the top of the hill (the halfway point on these three mile trips) I broke back out into open ground. What a wonderful feeling it is to emerge from the shadow of the woods, after the slog up that hill, into the warmth of the sun!

image

Breaking out into the sunshine felt pretty damn good.

Something that had been annoying me about my runs (other than the headphones which have now been well and truly ditched) was the infuriating rattle of my house keys in my pocket as I run. It might seem like a minor niggle, but the arhythmic jangle of the keys actually made it more difficult for me to focus on the rhythm of my running, breaking my focus. After a bit of thought about the problem I came up with this impressively hi-tech solution:

image

That's right! A rubber band! Screw you you rattling bastards!

I’m quite sure that somebody, somewhere offers some cutting edge product for keeping your keys safe and quiet while running that probably costs about twenty quid but my humble little elastic band works perfectly and I can definitely notice an improvement in my running (or at least my experience of it) as a result.

Anyway, on to today’s stats:

Scheduled Distance: 3 miles
Actual Distance: 3.01 miles
Time: 00:30:32
Average Speed: 10:08 mins/mile
RPE: 3

Posted in marathon | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment